Technology plays a critical role in improving occupancy, easing staffing shortages, differentiating services and reducing risk.

On January 31, 2022, McKnight’s Senior Living aired a Market Leaders Podcast that featured McKnight’s editor Lois Bowers and Sentrics CEO Darin K. LeGrange discussing the role technology will play in solving ongoing concerns around occupancy, staffing and price-to-value. Topping the list are solutions that provide for the right care at the right time, rethink staff and resource management and leverage technology that identifies unmet needs and demonstrates results.

See a summary of the discussion below.

Three key industry issues

As we move into year three of the pandemic, we at Sentrics hear consistent themes from senior living and healthcare leaders. The first is occupancy. It’s certainly not any secret that all of our communities, especially IL and AL, are trying to increase occupancy back to pre-pandemic levels. For higher acuity settings, like skilled nursing and hospitals, it’s really about managing occupancy. And at each level, everyone is concerned about providing the right level of care.

This leads to the second theme: Staffing. Senior living and healthcare organizations are competing for the same staff as companies like Amazon, brick and mortar retailers and fast food restaurants. Staffing shortages force us to look at new and different creative solutions to manage these and all resources.

The third theme is creating value for the dollar, especially as supply chain and labor costs have increased across the world, which causes price increases in everything we do. Inevitably, that leaves residents, patients and family members asking more questions around the value of services provided and leads to new expectations around care management. Price-to-value concerns lead to questions around the bigger picture of lifestyle support and how we are driving purposeful engagement for the resident and a better experience for patients.

The lines continue to blur between senior living and healthcare

While the convergence of healthcare and senior living started three or four years ago, we are seeing an expanded recognition that senior living communities are part of the healthcare ecosystem, whether they want to be or not. These businesses have become about delivering the right care in the right setting at the right time to the right person. This will require a much stronger collaboration between hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, local physicians, home health, and senior living communities. We have to deliver the right care no matter where that person is—a patient in a hospital, a resident of a community or a member of a health plan.  And there are three reasons why this is important.

Social determinants of health are critical when managing the overall health and wellness of any individual, especially in the post-acute and senior living environments. This includes coordinating resources for food supplies or transportation, in-home care and hospice. It includes coordinating the transitions from a hospital setting into skilled nursing or even a lower acuity senior living environment. It’s ultimately about access to care.

Aging in place will continue to accelerate as a theme as smart home technology, safety monitoring and other tech-based solutions empower families to help loved ones maintain their sense of independence. And while seniors and patients can receive medical care, food deliveries, cleaning and other services at home, they will continue to have fewer opportunities for social interaction. This is an opportunity to create market differentiators.

Managing chronic conditions is tied to this. As we age, we tend to have more chronic conditions that need to be managed. ATI Advisory noted that one in five older adults in a typical community has six or more chronic conditions and fifty percent (50%) of assisted living residents have medical complexities that need to be managed. Senior living communities need to become better equipped to manage these conditions by coordinating care and creating better care management protocols. The result of managing the continuum of care will be reducing healthcare risk and creating a better quality of life for loved ones.

Technology expands to meet right care, right setting demands

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of new tools to increase access to care:

  • Telehealth has become a standard service. Providing instant access to a provider helps identify when a loved one needs immediate medical attention—and when they don’t.
  • Video conferencing will be a huge communications upgrade for senior living, acute care and home settings. Video-based family discussions and translation services for those less comfortable with English will be game changers when access is as simple as a button touch.
  • Integration across more data solutions (EMR technology, engagement solutions, service providers) will power machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions to identify care needs that were unknown or overlooked. They will create a new level of data transparency for patients, residents and family members to inform care decisions. This in turn makes staff more efficient, eases staffing shortages and creates market differentiators, which improves occupancy.

The result? Reduction of unnecessary trips—and cost—to the ED, fewer falls, and better quality and more personalized care for the patients and residents with chronic conditions.

Technology will ease staffing shortages and create new opportunities for resource management

The great resignation is hitting the senior living and acute care industries particularly hard. The Washington Post recently reported that senior living communities have lost more than 420,000 workers in the last two years. Becker’s cited that nurse turnover in the acute care setting was 18.7%. The numbers are astounding, and they are forcing the entire healthcare ecosystem to rethink how it recruits, trains and retains our workers, and makes them more efficient.

Better technology will help recruit and retain younger employees. Today’s young recruits expect technology to be part of their jobs. That technology needs to help them be more efficient and effective. And it’s here today. Technology can help prioritize alarms, simplify dispositions, order meals and other services, and engage residents. Technology makes staff more efficient, gives them time back with residents and improves the overall resident (and staff) experience. The ROI is there to change the way our caregivers and frontline staff interact with patients and residents.

At the same time, technology is changing our concepts around resource management and community engagement. Personalized and resident-initiated engagement have come of age as operators have moved from the traditional large events to smaller group and individual settings. Technology is facilitating new ways to bring residents together:

  • Purpose-built matchmaking identifies residents who love the same college basketball team or have an interest in genealogy
  • Integrated assessments and easy-to-answer questions gauge changes in resident wellbeing
  • Self-help applications encourage residents to order prescription and food delivery, wellness visits and virtual travel tours
  • Integrated systems allow residents to order meals and room service in advance, schedule a hair appointment and sign up and pay for 1-on-1 training sessions with the click of a button

These solutions deliver a simpler and yet more sophisticated way to manage leisure and lifestyle preferences, and the ability to address the price-to-value question. Tailoring programs to match individual purpose improves engagement at all life stages, quality of life and longevity. It provides a market differentiator, demonstrating more value for the dollar to the resident, and creates the ultimate advantage for the community.



Data leverage is the key

In 2021, the industry shifted from managing sickness and injuries to managing chronic conditions. In 2022, we will shift again into slowing down or even preventing an adverse event—reducing risk—thanks to system integration and the use of integrated data.

For example, most companies today use data to predict outcomes in their businesses: A CEO uses leading indicators to determine if sales projections will meet forecast. Leaders in healthcare and senior living can use an individual’s 24-hour stats around sleep patterns, activity attendance, food consumption, medications, allergies and even lifestyle data like time spent watching TV to identify risks before they happen. A sleepless night puts someone at a higher risk for falls for example.

At the same time, capturing information like gait analysis, speed and accuracy of button clicks, and socialization over time might show cognitive decline and a need for a higher level of care. The ability to predict future trends starts with capturing, integrating and analyzing integrated data and then alerting someone of the findings in an actionable way. The ability to identify future risks starts with capturing historical data.

The insurance industry uses historical data every day to predict future risk for car, life, home and even health insurance. Senior living and healthcare can do it too. We have access to so much information about residents and what’s happening in their rooms, that we can actually start to predict future risks. This only works when the technology is integrated; it can’t be in silos. When we use technology and integrated data to help us improve the quality of health and lifestyle, we create better years, not just more years, for our loved ones.

Data reduces risk…period

A Sentrics advisory council member once said that data is great, but it doesn’t tell anything about what somebody should do with the information. And he was right! Data by itself doesn’t solve any problems.

But when you move data to information, information to insight and insight to action, you can reduce risk especially when you can personalize it to each resident.

Camera technology today is a great example. Cameras can do way more than show who might be present in a location; it memorializes somebody in a location to detect when a fall has occurred. A camera that knows a location can detect new water on the floor or a hazard in a community area that might cause somebody to trip and fall. That data reduces risk; it does not increase risk.

We can also reduce the risk of a resident ending up in the hospital for something that could have been prevented. Gait analysis might signal when someone needs a walker or a wheelchair, smart mattresses could indicate when someone was actually sleeping and if that sleep was sound or restless. A restless night can increase fall risk. Similarly, capturing the clicks on a remote control over time can help determine cognitive decline.

We can reduce risk through data integration. By finding the relationships between the data and identifying an action to take, we reduce risk and actually create a better-quality experience and better health outcomes for the resident.

Additional tech adoptions to watch in 2022

While we have mentioned quite a few technologies, we have only scratched the surface of innovations we’ll see adopted this year:

  • Managed services. Communities need ways to simplify technology management operationally and for resident interactions. They need technology to just work. They need it to be integrated. And they need it to be simple. Moving to a managed services model eliminates five, six, or more point solutions managed by as many people and simplifies the tech stack so operators can focus on resident care. And, yes, residents, especially incoming baby boomers, will pay a little more to have a simple technology solution.
  • Bundled services. Consumers are more tech savvy. They are comfortable with bundled services—TV, Internet and phone. New residents, and even patients in hospitals, want technology to be simple. They are also willing to pay for technology help (i.e., Geek Squad and Apple Care). Look for more bundled services that deliver advanced technologies and include customized, onsite support models.
  • Next-generation engagement. First-generation engagement solutions that largely simplified operations by providing access to dining menus, activity registration and work orders, will be replaced by next-generation engagement platforms that personalize the experience for the resident and the patient. New solutions will help residents ignite purpose and passion. They will integrate more deeply with the healthcare ecosystem providing one-click access to telehealth, physicians and ancillary services. They will focus on individual resident and patient needs.
  • Technology generates revenue. Communities will realize that technology is not just a cost center. It’s a revenue generator. Many consumers will pay a little more per month to know more about what their loved ones are doing in their communities. Technology allows them to be “closer” and more involved.
  • Technology integration. Communities are starting to recognize that access to the right data reduces risk. Tight integrations with key software platforms will pave the way for better healthcare for residents, more value for families and a stronger differentiation for the community.

Technology will help solve today’s healthcare and senior living issues

The pandemic heightened concerns around occupancy, staffing and price-to-value. Newer technologies help solve those issues and more. Sentrics provides an integrated suite of solutions to help senior living communities and hospitals deliver the highest quality of care and a more personalized experience for seniors and patients.

Contact us to discuss your technology challenges and learn how a single integrated solution can help you improve outcomes, reduce risk and a create a better experience for patients, residents, families and staff.